I used to play high school sports with a kid named Rick who was, without a doubt, one of the most paranoid people I've ever met. That word gets used too lightly these days, and should be reserved for serious bouts of He's-Talkin'-About-Me-itis. But the term worked with Rick.
He was that paranoid.
And because he was that paranoid, other kids taunted him. Once they realized that every side glance, smirk and whisper would cause him discomfort they were like sharks. Every day, all the time. Snide comments, loud whispers to others in the locker room, raised eyebrows: all designed to cause Rick to freak out and blow a gasket.
He did just that on occasion, although I'm never sure he knew exactly what paranoid really meant. Once, after a kid teased him, Rick threw the biggest tantrum ever. The kid, who became kinda scared at the outburst, yelled: "Jeez, why are you so paranoid." Rick answered:
"Paranoid? I ain't scared a-nobody!"
Then, he punched the wall.
I don't know what happened to Rick after graduation. I do hope, however, that he found some peace in his life.
I consider myself more hyper-observant than paranoid. Always have been so inclined, but particularly during my adulthood. Being that aware of small things that go on around you is more of a curse than it is a blessing. Hyper-observant folks tend to notice behavioral trends that other people overlook. Habits, routines and tics that stand out in dramatic fashion, regardless of how subtle the context.
The biggest curse of being hyper-observant, though, is presuming one's own trends and tics are equally obvious and apparent to everyone else. Although I suspect it's an incorrect assumption, it seems logical that if the ability to notice things comes so easily to me, it must be common for others too.
No matter how many times I say to myself: "She didn't notice that I did that," I really do think that she did.
1. I sometimes wear the same pair of pants two days in a row.
I don't have to do that; I have plenty of pants from which to choose. But sometimes when I get home and change I realize my pants aren't dirty. Maybe I didn't move from my desk all day. For whatever the reason, sometimes my pants are clean. So, when that happens I fold them nicely and set them aside to wear again with a different shirt on the next day. While that's something I'd spot others doing, no one has ever called me on it. So, I'm not sure they notice.
2. I talk funny.
I do. I've been told that by people who love me, so I'm sure it's true. And I realize it, sometimes. I seem to have an aversion to using verbal contractions, and on occasion will speak in song lyrics or metaphors. It's about the rhythm, I think. There seems to be a constant, natural cadence in my head, and I adhere to it most of the time.
I do sometimes try to use current language trends in everyday language, just to fit in. But it never comes out right. Not long ago I was talking to a person who was very upset with a friend, to the point of anger. He was venting to me, and venting hard. As he finished his rant, he paused, during which I commented:
"Damn, that's whack! You should get all up in his grill."
"What?" he said.
"I said damn, that sucks. Sorry that happened." His reply?
No one--and I mean no one!-- sounds cool and hip when they have to repeat the attempt.
3.I rarely look people in the eyes.
I don't avoid eye contact because I'm telling a lie. I avoid it for two reasons: First, it's rather uncomfortable for me. I'm not sure why, but it is. So much so that extended eye contact during conversation will cause me to be discombobulated. Second, I stare off into the horizon or against the wall behind you while we talk because I'm visualizing things you are saying. I think very visually, and need to conjure up images of what I'm trying to express.
I can't count the number of times I've talked to people who, as they notice me staring over their left shoulders, think someone is standing behind them. Just this week I had a fifteen minute conversation with a new co-worker who, as we talked, kept looking behind her. She was noticing my eyes drifting to her left, and thought someone was walking up behind her. I had to offer an explanation that ultimately sounded just plain goofy.
4. I am often mesmerized by things small and trivial.
I'm a pretty good multi-task-er, until I see something shiny that catches my attention. Several years ago some artist in Flash comics used a new visual technique to show super-speed. It was amazing, and I thought about that technique for days. I even talked to people about how cool it was, even though I knew they didn't really care. They humored me, and I knew it. But I was obsessed.
5. I walk in a constant rhythm.
See number 2.
When I walk, I count my steps. I'm not sure why, but I do. In multiples of 7's, mostly. On the sidewalk, up the stairs, down the hallway: it doesn't matter. If I'm walking, I'm counting in my head. So, there is a natural rhythm that comes with it. It's likely a stress reducer that I stumbled upon accidentally years ago but it's always there, even when I don't notice it.
Well, that felt kinda good to purge...
I really do wonder from time to time about how Rick's life turned out. He was a stand-up guy, mostly, and he was pretty decent to me. I never taunted him back in the day. First, it's not my style to do that.
But more than that, I understood.